AbacusLaw Ask Us Anything
In this open forum webinar, we answered some of the pressing questions from AbacusLaw users. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or new to AbacusLaw, you will want to check this out.
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Alright, thanks everybody for joining. This is Scott Heist, senior trainer here at AbacusNext. I also have my colleague, Amanda, on the line with us. She's going to be reading out your questions to me. We'll do our best to answer all of your questions in the time that we have allotted. Before we get started, if you could just do a little show of hands, just click your hand raising button there, just to make sure you can see my screen okay. Does everybody see my AbacusLaw program? My mouse moving around? Okay, perfect. Looks like we got some responses there, so I assume we're good. And then because you responded to that positively, I can assume that you hear me. So we won't have you raise your hand for that.
So what we're going to be talking about today is actually it's open forum day. So this is a first for AbacusLaw free Thursday webinar, so that's kind of nice. So this is kind of just an open forum. You can ask any question that you have relating to AbacusLaw's features. It's kind of like a free for all. You still gotta type them into the chat box though. We still have people muted. So make sure you type those into the chat box and then Amanda will read them off to me and I'll do my best to address as many of as I can. Like I said, we have a short amount of time. So if they are elaborate questions that require a lot more time, I will follow up with you after the training and we will discuss them kind of one on one.
Now we did get some questions that came in over email. So I'm actually going to address those first if nobody minds, and then we'll jump into your chat questions. So while I'm addressing these few questions here, please type your questions into the chat box so Amanda can read them.
Now the first question that we got in regards to AbacusLaw through the email was "How do I make a query where I can come up with a report that lists open matters separated by attorney initials, and that only shows active open cases?" So this is actually a combination of a couple of skills. First you have to know which matter report to run. And then you also need to really be able to use different query filters that we have built into the system, and if we don't have query filters that come with the system that suffice, you can always create your own. So step one, though, to this question is identifying the proper report that you want to run. So to get to your reports, you just go to file, reports, and then you need to decide what type of report you're going to run. So for this particular question, this is going to be an open matters report, which is basically sorted by attorney or filtered by attorney, whichever you prefer.
So I would choose matters for my report list. And that's going to open up my matters report control window. so notice these two buttons right here. These are very important. The first one that says report, this is what allows us to select the report layout. So everything in this list, it really only dictates how you view the report. It doesn't dictate what data qualifies to be on the report. It just dictates the layout. So for this one, it looks like just a basic matters list. So I would probably just choose matters list, okay? Or, you could do something … If you actually look through your matters reports, we've got a lot that come with your system and you can see here. Here's one called matters report open only. So this actually has a query built into the report that, by default, only shows open cases, okay?
So you'll really have to become familiar with the reports that you have. If you have specialty versions … You can see up in mine, I have a bunch of specialty versions. I have reports specific to immigration, guardianship, business law, civil lit, all that good stuff. But let's say you didn't have any of those specialty versions and you just wanted to do a plain old matters list. I would choose that report. And if you want to see what info is going to show on the report, as far as like, you know, column headers goes, life first name, last name, birth date, stuff like that, highlight the report and click edit. And what you see here, these are the fields that are going to show. So this is the info that's going to show on the report. So the name of the matter, the case number, the assigned attorney, and the case code, so the type of case.
So if you want to add or remove any of these fields from the report, you can do that. Notice the add and the delete buttons. So you can kind of go through here and just click on a field and delete it if you don't want it there. Or add maybe a new field. Maybe you want a field on the report for the court that it's going to be in. You could click add and you could choose that field from your list of available fields. But if we were just good with these particular fields here on the report, then I can click done. And notice I have my checkbox next to my matters list report. So I would click done here too. So I've selected matters list as my report.
Now the other two parts of this question are one, we only want to see open matters. And then two, we want it to be for specific attorneys. Now this person said separated by attorney initials, so I'm assuming that means sorted by attorney initials. So you can actually just do that in the report itself. So I'll show you how to do that here. But first let's set the query that tells the program to only show us open matters. If you click that query button, you can go into the query manager, and we actually have a query built into the system, which I believe is just called open. Yeah, so right there. So open. Only shows open matters and you should also have this built into your system by default. So I'm going to click done and I'm going to apply that query.
Now this question says they want the attorneys separated by initials, so I'm assuming that that means they want all of the attorneys on the report, but they just want them kind of grouped together by attorney initial, which is fine. What I like to do in these reports, especially reports where you'd like to manipulate the data, I like to change my output from … Printers and screen are very popular. I actually like to change my output to data merge file. And then if you choose comma delimited, that's an Excel file. And Excel is a really great tool for sorting, filtering, just manipulating your data so that it's easier to manage. So if you actually set that you comma delimited, when you click print … I'll open the file … When you click print, what that does is it pushes it over into … I'll put it on my desktop there … It actually pushes it over into just a regular old Excel file and then Excel should open that into … See, here you go. Excel opens that into a viewable report.
So and then once you have it in Excel, I can sort based off of my columns. So in my attorney column, I've got a bunch of different attorneys. I can just actually create a nice little sort filter on that. Either just like that. Notice I just went to sort and filter and I clicked my filter option? And now I have filtering capability on that column. So now I can just choose which ones I want to sort by. So if I only want to see mine, there you go. Now I'm only viewing all the cases assigned to SH. If I only want to see Cory's, I just click Cory, and now I only see cases assigned to Cory. So like I said, I'm a big Excel fan. If I'm trying to get a bunch of data in mass and then kind of manipulate it outside of the program, Excel's a great tool for that.
If you're just wanting it in a PDF, though, you can do that. When you do your output, just choose either screen or file, whichever. I'll do screen. And in your report itself, inside of your matters list report, if you click edit and you go to, I believe it's under format … Let's try it. Maybe it's index. Let's try one of these here. One of these has an option for sort order, I thought. Maybe I'm wrong. Oh, I'll have to look into … Oh, let's see. Index to use. We'll come back to that. There's a way that you can embed sorting within the report, but the thing you need to remember about doing that is that it's in that report permanently from there on. So you'd have to go back and change that if you didn't want that sort order to be in there for the next time you run the report. So just keep that in mind. So I think that that should answer that first question. If it didn't, please email us and I'm happy to contact you afterwards and we can discuss further.
So the next question that we have here is … Well, it's a demonstration. "Can you please do a brief demonstration of how to use existing Abacus client information and forms to generate a document letter such as a contact letter?" So this kind of all depends on how you want to approach the generation of the letter. So usually what you're going to do … Well, I guess I shouldn't say usually. It's going to vary. You can do this from within your matters browse window. You could kick it off that way. Or you could do it from within your names database. Like if I wanted to generate a letter specifically for John Doe, I can just click John Doe's name and then go to my actions button, and there's an option there to mail merge, where I would then choose the appropriate form from my list. Now, I would say that the more popular way to do it is to actually just go into your forms library, find the form in your library that you're wanting the generate … Like, let's say you specifically mentioned a contact letter for a client. Like let's say it was a non-representation letter, or something like that. The kind of letter we send to everybody and the only thing that really changes is the personal information of that person.
This is specific to this person. We're not submitting this to the courts. So what we would do with this letter at this point is we would just click on it in our library, and then choose the matter that it relates to. So I would just choose my case from my list, and then click the fill form button, and that's going to run my Word processor, and it's essentially just going to push all the data from the client record that's associated with that case. See that? John Doe's my client on that case, so it's automatically putting John Doe's information into that area, even for greetings and stuff like that. See, it says "Dear Mr. Doe?" The reason it says that, the reason the system knows to put that there is because if we look at that person's name record, we have something written in that field. The dear field, Mr. Doe. So whenever you generate just a simple letter like that, the generation is only as good as the data that you have inside of those name records and those matter records. So just keep that in mind.
If this field was blank, Abacus wouldn't fill anything into that section on the form. So like I said, there's a few different ways you can do that. A lot of times in PI, in personal injury, a big letter that they send out is like medical requests, requests for medical information. So if it's like a car accident, there's potential that your client has seen multiple doctors. So what you could actually do in that case is go into the matter, and since you have to generate the same form for multiple people on that case, you could go into the matter and click the linked names tab, and then just click the check boxes next to all those people. Let me choose a matter that actually has multiple people here. So what I would do is go into linked names, and I have multiple people. If I want to send the same letter to this person, this person, and this person, I just click their check boxes and then down here again, I go to actions. And I do mail merge, or you can do quick forms, whichever you prefer. If you have quick forms setup. But I would say mail merge is the most popular way to do it. All three records.
And then I can run my Word processor, which is probably going to be Word or Word Perfect, and then I just choose the form from my little forms list. When you click that form button, that's going to open up your Windows Explorer where you would just choose the form that's on your network that you want to run for. So again, that's if you're doing like the same form for three different people. So hopefully that answers that question.
So let's move down the list here. "Is there a way to create a shortcut so that upon typing maybe one or two characters, the entire line appears without having to type it each and every time?" Yes. So anybody who has been on a training with me has probably heard me say a million times, I am a huge fan of anything that will eliminate typing. I am a horrible typist and if I can use abbreviations, I am all for it. So basically what you're describing is a text macro. And what a text macro is you type in a couple of characters on your keyboard and then the system automatically generates the detailed information. So why is this good for us? One, it saves us typing time. And then two, uniformity is a big thing. We like to have uniformity in our notes, not just for our own benefit, but also for our time tickets. Remember, a lot of these notes and events that we create, they end up getting turned into time tickets and those time tickets go on invoices. Well, there's nothing worse than sending a client an invoice with the same thing written out 10 different ways because that usually invites a phone call from the client, which nobody really wants.
So if we can keep uniformity on that time ticket as well, which in turn is uniformity on the bill, then that's great. So to setup text macros, this is what you should do. First, I always say just go into a note, just click your little note window, because this is usually where you're going to use text macros the most, in notes and events. Basically, anywhere in the system where you have a note window that looks like this yellow square, you can use a text macro and that includes the time ticket window as well. But what you want to do is when you're in this blank note window, hit the F5 key on your keyboard. Th F5 key will automatically pull up your text macro maintenance window and there are a few that come with your system, but you can add your own. So like for instance, if I wanted to add my own here and maybe I just give it a code of phone and I click done. And then I put in a description for that code. Please call client back. What that does is now, any time I choose this macro, it just automatically fills in the text.
And then if you have the feature turned on in the system … Let me show you this. File, setup, user preferences. If you have this little checkbox selected, third from the bottom in the settings list, if you have that checkbox selected that says expand text macros with the space bar, then what you can do is you can actually just type in the code, and I've had some issues with this previous … There it worked. So you just type in phone. See how I did that? P-H-O-N-E and I hit the space bar and it auto-fills the text. So kind of cool. Saves you some typing time and again, keeps things uniform.
Now I will tell you this, the note window here and then also in events, if we're adding a new event, because you can use those text macros here as well. See that? You can do it both places. That is different than the text macros inside of your billing program. So if you're entering time tickets and you want to use text macros there, you need to set those up inside of billing. You do it the same way, you just click in there, you hit the F5 key and that will open up all of your different text macros that you can use, different codes and stuff like that. But you do need to set that up inside of the billing program under the file menu. File, setup, and then I think there's a section in there just for codes. So you can set that up there. So hopefully that answered that question. I love text macros. I use them all the time.
Let's see, next question. "Can the things to do list be categorized by event type and is there a way to add notes to a specific matter without notes carrying over into linked names?" Okay, so that's a two part question. So can the things to do be categorized by event type? So I'm going to assume that what you're referring to is the categorization, or at least the hierarchy, of the way things to do show on your calendar, or maybe potentially in the matter itself. So if we look at a to do, here's one, send non-rep letter … For anyone who isn't familiar with this window, there is a type field that you can fill in another type. It's basically another way to classify the specific event and you can add your own, again. So you can customize that and you can apply a certain type.
Now I will tell you, I don't know that there is a way to categorize them by the type of event because we actually have the priority field specifically for kind of generating a hierarchy in events to begin with. So I would probably suggest utilizing the priority field for that type of use. And if that doesn't work for you, let us know. Maybe there's something we can do to kind of give you a workaround on that. And just again, email us if that solution doesn't work for you. But I would suggest utilizing the priority for that, because that's kind of what it's for.
Now the second part to the question was is there a way to add notes to a specific matter without the notes carrying over into linked names, and thereby affecting notes on other matters that those names are linked with? So any time you add a note, you are not required at all to link it to a name. That's not requirement. As a matter of fact, I tell people in the note window … And this goes for notes, events, emails, documents, anything you're linking to a case … I tell people the Abacus program is matter centric to begin with. So usually every piece of information that you are entering into the system is going to be on matter by matter basis. Usually. Obviously there's one off scenarios where that's not going to be the case. So you don't have to.
Now if you have a client or somebody prioritized as a person linked to that matter, the system may try and auto-fill that name for you. Let's try it now. It may do it for this one. See, it doesn't even do it for mine because I don't have that setup. But if it does, if it auto-fills a name to this field, you can just delete it. Just highlight that name and hit delete or backspace and it'll delete it right out. So that way the note is only being saved in the matter record and not in the note record. So in other words, if I do two hours of document prep on this matter, I can create that note and that's not really specific to any certain name. But that's something more billing against the matter. So the important thing is to make sure that we are always are linking notes, events, emails and documents to the matter. The names linkage, that's kind of like a secondary thing you can use if you want to. You're not required to do it. So if you don't want it linked, delete the name out of there, or don't link it. So hopefully that answers that question.
So one more here from the email list and then we'll jump into the chat questions. "I want to do a report that combines events with matters so that it prints open matters with events listed under it." So this could potentially be a primary report with a sub-report, but that's actually a pretty common report. So we actually have that built into the system. If you go to file, reports, that's going to be a matters report. And then if you click your report button to choose your report type, I believe we have … Yeah, so we have one right there. Matters list with events, and it's just a column report. I'm sure that we have one in block format as well. But you know, if it's the layout or something like that that you're not into, then you're always welcome to create just a sub-report to your normal matters list report. You can see you can select that, click edit, and then there's an option there for sub-reports. And you could do linked events and just choose that.
And then if you have some sort of query or something like that that you need to apply or some sort of specific events report that you want to apply, you could do that. Like maybe it's an SOL events report, or just an open events report, you could choose that from this section. So I would say take a look at the one that we already have created in the system and probably manipulate that one. And when I say manipulate, I mean click on it, select edit, and then adjust the fields you want to see on it, the format, the page layout, the headers and different things like that. And that should get you what you want there. So that is the end of the questions that we got by email. Thanks for being patient there. Amanda, I will turn it over to you to read any of the questions that came in through chat.
Okay, great, thank you, Scott. We actually have a bunch of questions. I'm not sure that we're going to have time for all of them, but I will start with Amy's question. "How do I get access to the calendar in accounting? Would love to have it on the task bar."
So that's actually a great suggestion. Unfortunately, that is not something that's built into the system at this time, but I am happy to pass that along as a suggestion to development. As of right now, you just can't do that. Technically, AbacusLaw and AbacusLaw Accounting are two different programs, they're just integrated together. So they kind of talk to each other. While some features do carry over into accounting, all of them do not. So for now, the only place you can access the calendar is within the AbacusLaw case management side. But I think that's a great idea and I'm going to pass that along as a development suggestion.
Okay, so when entering payment, is there an auto-fill on the payment line that says check number? Even when I override the check number, it still shows up on bills.
So go ahead and make a note of that question, Amanda, and I'll follow up with that person after our training and I'll do a one on one call to talk about that.
Okay great. How can I delete a client cost that has been posted to the matter? I know I can zero it out but it still looks unprofessional.
Yeah, yeah, you're right, it does. And I was going to say right before that last part of that question, it kind of depends on the client. Some clients are like "Oh, just do a negative and I'm fine with that." Some clients are not, especially if you're billing like insurance companies or if this is an invoice that goes before the court. A lot of times, for like worker's comp stuff, a lot of times they don't like that. So the first step in doing something like that is if it's been on a bill that's been posted, is you really need to unpost the bill. That's step one. We got to eliminate that bill as having those items already posted to the account. So I'm going to open up my program real quick and now I'm not going to go through that entire step click by click, but I will get you going in the right direction here, and if you have any issues, just email us and I will follow up with you one on one.
Give me just a second here. My program's opening on the other screen. There we go. Okay. So first things first in that scenario is you're going to have to go into your billing menu and you're going to have to unpost that bill. So remember our three step billing process. First we pre-bill, then we print bill, then when we finalize, when we want to put that money towards the balance, we post it. If there's a mistake, or something in error and that bill has been posted and you need to fix that, you need to unpost that bill. And this is assuming, like the scenario suggested, that the user does not just want to see a negative applied. So once you do that and you select the matter, I'm just going to … So it looks like I don't actually have a matter there that will work.
But you would choose the matter and it would pull up the invoices for that matter by invoice number and you would just unpost that, then make your correction. You can either delete the cost out. And when I say delete the cost out, I mean you can actually just go into cost and adjustments and find it and then delete it out, or even better than that, you can go right into the billing activity, look it up by matter, and delete it out of there. And that would take care of it. Now the thing about that is, once you make that correction, once you delete it, you're going to need to reprint that bill for the client. You can't just go back and repost. You have to reprint the bill. That puts that new bill into the posting queue. Then you can post the new bill and give the client their updated invoice.
But that was a good point you made. Every client's a little bit different. Some are totally fine with you just putting that $50 adjustment, negative $50 on the balance and they're fine with that. Others, absolutely not. They need to see that the way it should be. But unposting the bill is the right way to do it, just from like a ledger perspective because what that shows is not only to the client that you've made that correction, but in the future if you ever are running a report, it shows that a mistake was made and you corrected that mistake the appropriate way, rather than just deleting things out and kind of showing that it was right all along. We don't want that. So good question.
Okay, great. So the next question is "Can you please explain how to run detailed conflict?"
So conflicts actually is something that you can really manipulate on your own. So the conflict checker up at the top, by default out of the box, the system queries the names database, the matters database and the notes database. So that's only three databases and as we all know, conflicts, you can have conflicts in your email, you can have conflicts in documents. There's all kinds of ways you can have a conflict. So let's start here in the conflict checker. And I'm going to go ahead and just type in a couple names. And all you're doing here is you're typing in the name and you hit enter, and that adds the name to your defined names list. Now, you can add multiple names. See that? I'm adding in a bunch of names. Now, when I hit run, that's going to automatically search matters, names, and notes, by default.
Now if I need to change that, if I want this to even farther into my database, I need to go into my setup menu. Fields to check. This is where you are specifying different fields. So you can actually add the events database as well in the conflict checker. So I can add that and I can go in here and I can add individual fields inside of a names database, like a who field or the what field or the where field. Whatever it may be. So once I click that, then I put in basically just my search type. It starts with certain characters, or the field contains certain characters, or it's an exact match to certain characters. So what that means is when I ran that query when I typed in Jones. If I have the who field on the event screen as a field set to be queried in that conflict, it's going to look exactly for the word Jones in that field. So that may not be a viable solution for you. What if you misspell it? What if you leave off the E or the S?
So maybe you do like a starts with, where you do a sound match or something like that, where it would pull up things that sounds like Jones, where it would be like Jone, or John, or Joneses, or something like that. So you kind of need to decide that and then it will add it to your conflict check setup. Notice over here on the right too, you do have some other radio buttons that you can select there that we'll dive a little bit deeper. Now that's if you want to edit it in the conflict checks list. A lot of people like the conflicts checker because you can type in a name and run it, and then you can kind of check things off your list. Like I look at this one, I double click on it and I say "Oh no, Johnny Doe. That's not a conflict. Let's click the check box then. We'll move that from my list. And remove this one from my list. And remove this one from my list." So I'm basically knocking things off the list that aren't conflicts. And then I can print this and I can link it to my case to show that we ran the conflict checker.
So that's kind of the nice thing about the conflict checker, but there's also this global search feature. so the global search feature can kind of be used as like a hybrid conflict checker because if you notice in global search, it searches key words across a lot more databases. Names, events, matters, notes, even linked docs and emails. And if you have the document searching index feature turned on, not only will this search link docs to your cases, but it will also search documents on your computer, if you have that feature setup. If you want to set that feature up, let us know. We'll help you out with that. But I can type in a word here, and that's searching a lot more databases. Now I don't have anything in these other ones for that particular key word. But this is pulling up results here. So I mean, technically, if I'm just trying to get a visual on a potential conflict, this could be a more thorough way to do it in a lot of cases.
And another cool thing about this global search is it does utilize your standard Boolean expressions. So I could do like Doe and John. Where both things have to be true. Both key words have to be true. Or maybe I do John or Sally, where either search term can be true. So I'm just pointing that out, that's one of the things I bring up on our trainings. The conflict checkers specifically designed for conflicts. It has a couple conflict-esque features built in, but the global search feature, that little magnify glass could kind of double as a conflict checker as well.
Thank you, Scott. So unfortunately, we only have time for one more question. As a reminder to everyone, Scott will be contacting you directly and following up on the questions. So don't worry if we didn't get to it today. So the question is "How does AbacusLaw use court rules?"
Ah, yes. So AbacusLaw … Yeah, that's actually one of the, in my opinion, one of the greatest features in this program. Court rules are so great because one, there are so many that get involved. If you think about civil procedure rules, you get like a trial date and there's 50 things that you have to get calendared. You've got 30 leading up to the trial, you've got 20 things after the trial. So the thing about court rules is one, it saves you the trouble of having to calendar all that stuff. And two, you know the deadlines are right. You're not going to miss a deadline. So that's nice. And just so you know, we get all of our rules directly from the courts. S if you ever need to kickoff a court rule … Now, I'm not going to use a court rule perse, in this example. I'm just going to use a specialty version rule, but it's exactly the same. There's not difference.
But if wanted to kickoff a court rule, let's say you get a trial date. You would just go to that date on your calendar, and then what I usually do, is i just right click on that calendar at the time of whatever my appointment time it. And then there's an option to add events from a rule. I would choose my rule. And then this whole menu that comes up, this is every rule that you have in your program. Now I have a ton in mine. So yours may not look as detailed as mine. But that's okay. Let's say we were going to use this civil litigations civil trial rule. I can just choose that rule from my list, fill in my events, link it to my matter, let's choose this one, and when I save this, watch what happens when I save this event. It says you are scheduling an event that is associated with a rule. Do you want the related event scheduled? Nine times out of 10, you're going to say yes here, because that's the whole reason you chose the rule. So you're going to say yes and here you go. Look at all of those events in that rule. Deadline for discovery, paying jury fees, supplement discovery. We're requesting docs, we're receiving docs, we're filing motions. All of these events automatically get calendared. So that is a great tool.
So that's how you kickoff the rule. But you're really only as good as the knowledge that you have around the rules that you are installed in your program. So I would recommend for anybody that has rules, go to file, setup, rules, and become familiar with the rules that you have installed. If you want to see what a rule does, just highlight it, click edit, and that pulls up all the rule details. Pulls up the code for the rule, it pulls up the date intervals in between each even, and it gives you a description of what each event does.
Now, if you've gotten local, state, or federal rules from us, you don't want to edit the events, especially the intervals inside of those rules, because we do get those from the courts and from the state and all that. So they should be accurate. If you feel that you've found a discrepancy, please contact us immediately. You can just send us an email and we will look into that for you and get it corrected. It's a pretty easy fix. But you're welcome to come in here and add additional reminders and things like that. There's a little add button there and you would just put in the reminder code or whatever you want to do. And then put in your interval that you want to specify. So that's kind of the high level overview of what rules are and how you kick them off. So I hope that answers your question.
For everybody else, this has been a very … And I know we've gone over, but I would just like to say this. This has been a very useful webinar and I think we'll probably continue this in the future. But I want all of you to know, you don't have to schedule training that's already laid out for you when you book training. We have, on our website when you go to book your training, we do have an option for specialized training. And that is for users that have used AbacusLaw and now they want to spend an hour just diving into court rules. You can book that. You can tell us. Just tell me about court rules and we can do that. So just keep that in mind. So I'll turn it back over to you, Amanda.
Thank you so much, Scott. So that is all the time we have today. As a reminder, we will have this webinar available on our website and it will also be sent to all registrants. Thank you and have a great day.